By @SimonCocking.  HBAN is an all-island umbrella group responsible for the development of  syndicates & supporting the early stage entrepreneurial community. Interview with National Director John Phelan

John Phelan National Director HBAN (1)

Describe the company – the elevator pitch …

HBAN is an all-island umbrella group that facilitates and promotes angel investment and angel syndicates, where multiple angels invest in a specific start-up. We have syndicates specialising in technology, med tech, software and food, as well as regional syndicates in Cork, Limerick, the Southeast and West and Northwest.

At HBAN, we are committed to creating opportunities for Irish start-ups. For that reason, we are continuously on the lookout for new angels from a diverse range of sectors who will invest in some of Ireland’s most exciting start-ups.

How are you different?

Our angel syndicates are what set us apart. Engaging with angel syndicates provides early-stage businesses with proven significant advantages. Angel investors not only provide capital, but also ‘smart money’. They offer mentorship based on first-hand industry expertise, access to a wide network of contacts and a greater level of due diligence, which helps to reduce risk. These are all vital ingredients for the success of a company post-investment, according to research carried out by innovation charity, Nesta.

Why will the company do well?

Ireland’s start-up scene is booming and we like to think we are at the heart of that. Last year, 19,472 new companies were formed across the country. It is hugely competitive and companies have to be extraordinarily ambitious, smart and innovative to make it. That means there is enormous opportunity for us to add value and be a part of some of those companies’ success stories. Through our collaboration with the various Irish Business Innovation Centres (BICs), we provide companies with something truly unique: helping them get investor-ready, preparing them for the detailed pitch and increasing their chances of accessing further funding from other sources.

Last year, our angels invested €10.8M in more than 50 companies, some of which are already showing signs of becoming global names. And, as more enterprising businesses pop up, the more successful HBAN will become.

Where are you based?

Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.

When was the company launched?

We initially launched HBAN as a pilot scheme in 2009 and we have been fully operational since 2010.

What have been your biggest wins to date?

Our biggest wins are when we see companies that our angels have invested in truly fulfil their potential. For instance, one of our angels invested in Storyful, the company founded by Mark Little that specialises in verifying newsworthy social media content, when it was an early stage start-up. In December 2013, the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for €18 million, giving the angel a seven-times return on his investment.

This is a fantastic example of the value angel investment can bring to high potential start-ups and the doors and possibilities it can unlock for them. Being able to facilitate that is the ultimate win for us.

What type of people (market segment) are you trying to attract to your product?

At the moment, we are on the lookout for more angel investors to bring their smart money to nascent Irish businesses. We’re particularly appealing to potential angels living abroad; successful business people who have access to international markets and a strong desire to contribute to the Irish start-up scene.

Tell us about your team.

We are a small team, each of us having setting up companies, with years of hands-on experience in start-ups and the overall entrepreneurial journey. Because of that, we are passionate about providing early-stage businesses with the best practical supports available to maximise their chances of success.

Our syndicates, on the other hand, each consist of approximately 20 angel investors, of which about five or six will invest in any one company.

What are your long term plans for your product / company?

We will continue to play an integral role in the Irish start-up scene and promote the value of smart money and angel investment.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

I have been using Lumafit ever since the company engaged with HBAN a few years ago. It’s an interactive fitness coach on your phone and I use it to monitor my fitness in the gym and at home. It captures all ranges of movement and knows exactly the kind of exercise I’m doing at any moment – whether that’s sit-ups, a plank or push-ups. So if you’re slacking, it will know!

What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?

There are a few areas of technology that are really exciting at the moment. I’m interested to see how drones will evolve and be used in a practical environment. There is also a very strong business case for the use of virtual and augmented reality.

From a personal point of view, I really like the sound of rollable screens. And, of course, I wouldn’t mind a Tesla car!

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

The main focus for HBAN in 2016 is targeting new angels and growing syndicates. We’d like to hear from anyone who would be interested in becoming an angel and/or can introduce a potential angel willing to invest cash in early stage companies.

How do people get in touch with you?

You can email us at [email protected] or call 01 669 8525. If you would like more information on what we do, visit hban.org.


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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